Taiwan’s president resigns as party leader after election losses

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen resigned as leader of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party after her party lost in local elections on Saturday.

Taiwan voters overwhelmingly backed the nationalist opposition party in several major election campaigns on the self-governing island, an election that pushed ongoing concerns about threats from China to more local issues.

Tsai had spoken many times during her party’s election campaign of “being anti-China and defending Taiwan.” But party candidate Chen Shih-chung, who lost his battle for Taipei mayor, raised the issue of the Communist Party threat only a few times before quickly returning to local issues as it There was little interest, experts said.

Tsai traditionally offered her resignation on Saturday evening after a big loss in a short speech in which she also thanked her supporters.

“I have to take all the responsibility,” she said. “In the face of a result like this, there are many areas that we need to review thoroughly.”

The elections likely depended on local issues, not China

While international observers and the ruling party have tried to link the election to long-term existential threats to Taiwan’s neighbors, many local experts do not believe China – which claims the island as its territory to be annexed by force if necessary – poses such a threat Situation this time has a big role to play.

“The international community has raised the stakes too high. They raised a local election to this international level and Taiwan’s survival,” said Yeh-lih Wang, professor of political science at National Taiwan University.

During the election campaign, little mention was made of the large-scale military drills against Taiwan that China held in August in response to the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosis.

“So I think if you can’t raise this issue even in Taipei,” Wang said. “In the cities in the south, you don’t even have to think about it.”

Nationalist Party candidates won the mayoral seat in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, as well as in Taoyuan, Taichung and New Taipei.

The Taiwanese elected their mayors, city councilors and other local leaders in all 13 counties and nine cities. According to local media, there was also a referendum to lower the voting age from 20 to 18, which was rejected.

Chiang Wan-an, the new mayor of Taipei, declared victory at a large rally on Saturday night. “I will let the world see Taipei’s greatness,” he said.

At the time of his speech, not all the votes had been officially tallied, but Chiang and the numerical lead of the other candidates allowed them to declare victory.

Kao Hung-an, a candidate from Taiwan’s relatively new People’s Party, won the mayoralty in Hsinchu, a city home to many of Taiwan’s semiconductor companies.

The campaigns had consistently focused on the local: air pollution in downtown Taichung, traffic congestion in Taipei’s tech hub Nangang, and the island’s purchasing strategies for COVID-19 vaccines that had left the island in short supply during an outbreak last year.

The ruling DPP’s defeat may be partly due to how it has handled the pandemic.

“The public is somewhat dissatisfied with the DPP in this regard, although Taiwan has done relatively well in pandemic prevention,” said Weihao Huang, professor of political science at National Sun Yat-sen University.

At an elementary school in New Taipei City, the city that surrounds Taipei, voters young and old turned out early despite the rain.

Yu Mei-zhu, 60, said she came to cast her vote for incumbent mayor Hou You-yi. “I think he did a good job so I want to keep supporting him. I believe in him and that he can improve our environment in New Taipei City and our transportation infrastructure.”

Tsai came out to cast her ballot early Saturday morning, surprising many voters as her security guards and entourage swept through the school.

“If the DPP loses many district seats, its ability to rule will face a very big challenge,” said You Ying-lung, chairman of the Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation, which regularly conducts public polls on political issues.

The election results will also, to some extent, reflect public attitudes towards the ruling party’s performance over the past two years, You said.

Some felt apathetic to the local race. “Politically, it feels like everyone is almost the same,” said Sean Tai, 26, a hardware store clerk.

Tai declined to say who he voted for but wants someone who will raise Taipei’s profile and bring better economic prospects while maintaining the status quo with China. “We don’t want to be completely isolated. I really hope that Taiwan will be recognized internationally,” he said.

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